Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Of the reasons to be thankful about living in Las Vegas, the people of our community are unquestionably at No. 1 on a long list.
Rarely does a week go by without someone in the community drawing the Sun’s attention for doing something kind for their neighbors and constructive for the community. Our archives are bursting with features about local residents who donate time or money, or make some other form of individual effort to make their community a better place.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, the Sun is expressing our gratitude today to these wonderful people and others who make Las Vegas a great city and Nevada a great state.
It would be impossible to list everyone who deserves a pat on the back, of course — all of the first responders, health care professionals, educators, Armed Services members, public volunteers, social justice and women’s activists, law enforcement officers, firefighters and so many more who look out for fellow Nevadans’ best interests.
But we believe an additional show of appreciation is in order to some of the individuals we’ve featured this year in our publication. And with that, we thank …
• Air Force veteran and UNLV student Andrew Ho, who was named the Student Veteran of the Year by Student Veterans of America for his outreach to fellow veteran students who were at risk of depression and isolation during the pandemic. His efforts were credited with helping those students and others transition to college.
• The three dozen volunteers from the Carpenters Local 1977 union who turned out in March to renovate 10 apartments at Share Village Las Vegas, a crisis intervention center for homeless residents, many of whom are veterans.
• Ashley Vazquez Romo, a Basic Academy of International Studies student and one of 300 participants in the national Bank of America Student Leaders program. Among her activities, Vazquez Romo served as a U.S. Department of State youth ambassador to Ecuador and Colombia to learn how to alleviate homelessness in two continents, and volunteered with the civic organization Mi Familia Vota on voter-registration drives at supermarkets and door-to-door. She also spent several months working with the local Boys & Girls Clubs.
• The students and faculty advisers who make up the 20 Hope Squad programs at Southern Nevada schools. Hope Squad is a national peer-to-peer intervention program that teaches students to recognize signs of depression, self-harm and suicide in their peers and steer them to adults for help. The Sun featured Spring Valley High School’s Hope Squad, which principal Tam Larnerd eagerly supported. “Kids who have suicide ideation, or are considering suicide, they rarely tell an adult,” he said. “But 70% of the time, they’ll tell a friend.”
• Jerry Runyon, who volunteers on a weekly basis to deliver blood from the Red Cross to area hospitals. Runyon has been doing deliveries for six years, carrying 45-pound boxes of blood supplies to hospitals. He’s also made more than 150 blood donations himself. “Being able to do this, it makes you feel good,” he said. “It’s very inspiring. ... I know that there’s a desperate need (for blood) and to be able to do my part just makes me feel good.”
• John Kennedy, who retired this year after four decades of refereeing local soccer matches at all levels — youth, high school, college and professional. The Sun’s managing editor, Ray Brewer, grew up playing games that Kennedy refereed and had this to say about him in a column in September: “For many of us in the soccer community, Kennedy is Las Vegas soccer. He’s our ambassador, the man who helped take the sport to new heights, all with the class and dignity of someone determined to advance the sport in his adopted home of Las Vegas.”
• Brooke Johns, who, on her days off from her 12-hour shifts as an emergency room nurse at Southern Hills Hospital, makes volunteer visits to the hospital to style patients’ hair. The Sun profiled Johns this fall, following her as she visited a patient recovering from a broken hip. “You come here on your days off?” the patient asked. “Yes ma’am,” Johns said. “That’s why I can spend as much time as I want on you: Nobody is telling me what to do.”
• Philanthropist John Woo, who donated $5,000 to a Texas-based DNA lab in an effort to solve the 1989 murder of 14-year-old Las Vegas resident Stephanie Isaacson. The lab’s work helped Metro Police break the case.
• Cheyenne Kyle and other members of the Obodo Collective, a group that is combating environmental inequality and encouraging conservation in the Historic Westside of Las Vegas. As detailed in a story this fall, the collective’s work includes developing a community garden to show residents how to grow fresh produce, and holding seminars on how to prepare healthy meals.
• Victoria Flores, who set up a community refrigerator and pantry at her home in east Las Vegas that is stocked with donations from local residents. “It’s just a feeling of gratitude, and it’s nice to know that someone cares about the struggles of what people are going through during this time,” said Gia Santos, a mother of three who turned to Flores’ offerings after losing her job in 2020. “It was very reassuring, and she just made it so comfortable for anybody to go to the fridge whenever needed.”
• Joe and Tracy Robbins, who established a charitable organization named for their son, Quinton, one of the victims of the Oct. 1 shooting. The Robbins’ foundation provides funds for youth sports, such as registration fees and equipment, and also has awarded college scholarships.
• Ku Stevens, the Yerington High School student and national-caliber distance runner who called attention to the issue of Native American boarding schools this past year with a special event he called the Remembrance Run. Stevens led the 50-mile run on a path that retraced the route his great-grandfather, Frank Quinn, took in twice escaping the Stewart Indian School in Carson City. This month, he also won a Nevada state cross country championship, finishing with the fastest time in any class. With an acute acknowledgment of the conflicted role Thanksgiving plays in the lives of Native Americans, we must express our appreciation to Stevens for calling attention to the issue.
• Elizabeth Groesbeck, a third-year UNLV medical student who was credited for saving the life of a man who was struck by a car on the way to the Las Vegas Raiders’ Aug. 14 game at Allegiant Stadium. Groesbeck leaped out of her rideshare vehicle, borrowed a belt to use as a tourniquet and instructed a bystander to call 911. The man was taken to a hospital, where he lost an arm but survived.
• The staff and volunteers of Baby’s Bounty, a Las Vegas nonprofit that in November announced it had given away 1 million diapers since May 2020 through a diaper bank it started during the pandemic.
Again, this is just a small collection of the stories of warmth and community spirit that pour from the residents of our city, our region and our state.
Happy Thanksgiving Week to them, and to all of our readers.